WE’VE all learned the folly of making political predictions over recent years, but as we go to the ballot box today, one of the few things which seems clear in this General Election is that the SNP will dominate the vote in Scotland. If pollsters are to be believed the party looks set to win 41 seats – up six.

As a result, independence, which has been a rumbling constant in the national debate since 2014, will come roaring back into Scottish life. All minds will be focussed on the prospect of a second independence referendum. Scotland will become the political crucible in which the UK’s future is forged.

As this new chapter looms, we need to learn lessons from the election which is just ending. The campaign has raised many questions which need answered before Scotland can deal sensibly with the issue of its constitutional future.

Most of these questions must be answered by the SNP and the broader Yes movement – as the matter in hand is independence. However, unionists have plenty of issues they must deal with too, as does the media.

Let’s deal with the media first. I’m a journalist, so I should address the problems in my own house before looking at others. The media has failed the people at this election, or rather I should say, the BBC and the right-wing London press has failed.

The right-wing press is what it is and what it has always been, and that will not change. Its hysterical, partisan ferocity is a continual un-healing wound which tarnishes the industry and the great number of hard-working, decent journalists in Britain, and the publications they work for, which are striving to tell the truth and do a pubic service.

Just look at the way the story of the little boy lying on a hospital floor was treated. The Yorkshire Evening Post broke the story, The Mirror picked it up and ran with it, and then right-wing journalists, like the Daily Telegraph’s Allison Pearson, peddled fake news that the image was staged.

When you hear someone say ‘never trust journalists’, we all know what papers they’re talking about.

The BBC has trashed its reputation throughout this election. When senior reporters like Laura Kuenssberg tweet out fake claims saying Labour supporters assaulted an aide of Health Secretary Matt Hancock, they’re destroying journalism. It’s simply disinformation. A student journalist knows that you mustn’t disseminate information without checking and confirming.

Perhaps, the biggest election row was Boris Johnson refusing to be interviewed by Andrew Neil. However, many felt more than a little uncomfortable about the fact that even if the interview happened, it would see the current boss of The Spectator (Neil) interviewing the former editor of the Spectator (Johnson).

The media clearly favoured the status quo at the last independence referendum. Journalism must do better as Scotland enters this new phase of its political life. That’s the first lesson.

Lesson two: Unionism must do better too. Not only will a rehash of Project Fear explode in unionist faces, it will do the public no service. The issues must be intelligently debated not subjected to hyperventilating propaganda.

The unionist base must also behave decently this time. At the last referendum, Yes voters were subjected to torrential abuse. Nazi slurs were thrown around with abandon. Ugly demonstrations by hardline loyalists following the referendum result seemed to confirm every Yes voter's worst fears about what the No base was really like.

In turn, the SNP must reign in its own base. The extremes of the Yes movement are among the most vile in British politics. If it’s not taking part in purity purges and circular firing squads, it’s perpetuating conspiracy theories and indulging in sustained, organised abuse of those seen as enemies.

Now let’s turn to the SNP and the Yes movement. For years now, the mantra of another independence referendum has been constant. Yet we’re moving towards a possible second referendum with little change in the discussion since 2014.

We’ve had some debate on currency. Instead of the 2014 plan to keep the pound, SNP members voted to replace the pound with a new currency as soon as “practicable”. Other economic proposals in the Growth Commission may lead Scotland towards more austerity in the event of independence. We need a national – not a party – discussion on this.

Moderate Yes voters, of which I’m one, aren’t prepared to blunder forward, as part of a nationalist dream, without fine detail and honest answers on the big issues.

Will there be a confirmatory referendum if Scotland votes Yes? No voters cannot be treated as Remain voters were in England. Their cares matter. Independence cannot bring division and hate. Many undecided voters may also back Yes if they know that a confirmatory referendum will call the whole thing off should negotiations between Edinburgh and London turn into Brexit Mark II.

Do we really think a bare win – 51-49 to Yes – is good enough? Isn’t that a recipe for national division and anger? Should the barrier be set higher – 60%? We don’t know as we haven’t discussed it as a country.

How will negotiations with London be undertaken? What about borders? Brexit has shown us that borders are brutal stumbling blocks, killing trade and separating people. Will there be a hard border?

What about any divorce settlement – what’s the cost? How will negotiations with the EU for re-entry go? What will be the terms of re-entry?

What about our defence and security? What will be the composition of our armed forces? Our intelligence services? What about Nato – how would it respond to the removal of Trident from Scotland?

The last time we discussed these issues substantively as a nation was 2014. Times have changed. As long as independence remained on the agenda, the debate should have remained updated. It hasn’t. Independence is becoming an empty slogan like Get Brexit Done. It needs to be meaningful. The Yes movement has to offer a refreshed prospectus.

There’s no fresh start tomorrow – just a new chapter. This election has shown us how badly parties and the media have failed. Scotland deserves better as the future looms – for that to happen we need informed national debate.

This cannot be left to the SNP alone. It is not the domain of that party to forge the future of this country alone. The SNP is entitled to be the political force that sets the path towards independence, given its all but assured electoral dominance, but it cannot be the sole power which refashions Scotland in the 21st century.

Neil Mackay is Scotland’s Columnist of the Year